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How flexible working can bring women to IT
In response to a review of how flexible working has been accepted and promoted in IT over the past year to attract women to the industry (Computer Weekly, 4 May)
Perhaps we need to promote the sheer range of careers available to women in IT. When I talked with my career adviser, he felt that there was very little beyond networking and programming - and this was only four years ago.
Flexible working is something that lends itself to IT and for most women it can make it a serious career choice.
Computer-aided learning manager,
Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust
Misleading users with printer prices
In response to correspondence resulting from Julie Giera's article (Computer Weekly, 6 April) about how firms are unaware they can save costs on their printed materials
In the UK it would appear that insufficient attention is given to the third core element of business printing identified by Robin Edwards (Letters, 20 April) - the total cost of each piece of printed output.
Many printer manufacturers follow a deliberate marketing policy of pricing the consumables needed by their printers at high prices, while at the same time shaving the cost of the printers themselves to the bone to win market share. This is a market strategy sometimes known as "razors and razorblades" and is also widely used in that market.
Suppliers' primary profit stream comes not from the printers but from the repeated purchase of consumables by the customers tied to them.
In the case of one leading colour printer, for example, the price of the printer is less than the price of the first set of replacement colour cartridges. People who have bought the printer without carefully examining the cost of the consumables might find this a bit of a shock. They are only prevented from buying a new printer and throwing out the old one each time they run out of toner by the fact that the new printer only contains toner enough for 1,500 sheets instead the 4,500 sheets of the replacement cartridge. A clever little marketing ploy and the same approach is used by many manufacturers.
The high cost of laser printer consumables can be countered in two environmentally-friendly ways: by topping up the old cartridges with new compatible toner or by buying remanufactured cartridges.
For many cartridges, including those of the printer mentioned above, compatible toners are available and the refilling operation is simple as a convenient filler plug is provided on the cartridge. It does not often cross people's minds that they can refill their cartridge with toner in much the same way as they top up their car with petrol. However, the high cost of the colour toners in particular is pushing an increasing number of organisations this way and the practice is likely to spread.
Remanufactured cartridges are more popular and have the advantage that new components are often fitted, allowing a full warranty to be offered. They also involve no more effort than an original cartridge. However, the UK lags well behind Germany in its use of remanufactured cartridges at about 20% to 25% of the market and more than two million, non-biodegradable laser cartridges are thrown away annually.
It is perhaps surprising that more businesses do not evaluate these ways of reducing their printing costs. The wider use of colour printing with its higher cost is likely to be a trigger that will encourage more careful use of resources in future, but unless the printer manufacturers lose a far larger part of their lucrative consumables market to the recyclers, they will have no incentive to change their policy and bring the cost of consumables down to a fairer level.
Managing director of Smith & Young sales
Why are hackers treated with such apathy?
In response to your article about the speed at which patching is becoming ineffective (Computer Weekly, 4 May), one simply has to point to the destructive rampage of the Sasser worm to highlight the point that it already is inadequate.
Both corporate and private users have been caught totally unaware by this worm, and zero-day attacks of this nature are now a fearsome weapon in the hackers' arsenal, exploiting not only obsolete security measures but also a huge apathy towards the seriousness of such crimes.
In any other medium a deliberate attack that could shut down or disrupt train services, banks, post offices and emergency services worldwide would be regarded as a major act of terrorism. However, because of this apathy towards malicious internet attacks, law enforcement agencies, governments and corporate IT managers will happily pass the buck.
Justice simply must be forthcoming and prosecutions need to follow. Current legislation, drafted back in 1990, is not enough to successfully prosecute those taking part in cybercrime. No matter the scale of the attack, these people need to be dealt with in a way that is going to act as a deterrent.
With committees such as the All Party Internet Group inquiry into the Computer Misuse Act gathering pace, this realisation is slowly dawning, but laws against cybercrime need to make an example of these criminals now to prevent such attacks from doing even more harm in the future.
Business development director,
Don't rely on CRM for a sales boost
In response to Stephen Jay (Letters, 27 April), he is right that there is no point in running customer relationship management software if it is not integrated with other business-critical applications. But you do not need CRM to build successful sales campaigns. In fact, it is a burden to sales professionals.
Because IT has brought about changes in attitudes to buying, software developers have been seeing what it can do for the part a commercial organisation really ought to have some control over - the selling. This has led to the formation of a burgeoning industry built loosely around CRM, but this is the wrong approach if what you really need to do is achieve more sales.
Too many companies have implemented CRM in response to a tougher selling climate, rather than reinforcing their sales professionals with an investment in sales intelligence software. They are effectively replacing traditional sales techniques with automated buying functionality - which is fine if you are sure your customers will be calling you, but not much use if you need to go out and find them for yourself.
Small wonder then, that CRM companies struggle to demonstrate a genuine return on investment and talk instead of changes in attitude and healthier, customer-focused business practices. If it is a boost in sales you need, CRM is not enough.
You can bolt on CRM to help make sense of your other enterprise applications, but it is not going to help you close a deal or sell more to existing customers. There are active selling solutions out there, but you will not find them under the banner of CRM.
Simple IT can improve website accessibility
I strongly welcome the focus of attention on internet accessibility for disabled users (Computer Weekly, 20 April), currently an area poorly addressed in website design by the public and private sector.
Organisations should look at the issue of accessibility as an opportunity to improve the overall usability of websites and improve relationships with customers and stakeholders.
The problems commonly cited by disabled users are often the same as from able-bodied users - cluttered and complex page structures or confusing and disorienting navigation mechanisms will send any user to a competing site.
There are some simple steps businesses can take to make their site accessible, such as utilising customer relationship management technologies already commonly in use on websites. E-service technologies offer a collaborative form-filling process allowing an agent to take partial control of the form to aid completion, and can also provide disabled users with help and advice for form-filling and website navigation through a text-based live webchat.
Provision of such services will help firms comply with equal access laws and has the additional benefit of improving customer service for both disabled and able-bodies users.
Local authority IT is failing dangerously
How many avoidable tragedies - Toni-Ann Byfield, Victoria Climbie or Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells - will it take before local authorities and central government bodies put their house in order?
The independent public review into the murder of schoolgirl Byfield has clearly shown a breakdown in systems and processes that should not have been permitted.
If the local authorities had put the processes, IT security and controls in place to properly share, assess and act upon Byfield's case information, there may not have been such a sorry conclusion.
Public sector organisations should carefully examine their procedures to prevent similar cases in the future and deliver the better levels of service and care that are undoubtedly achievable.
Recruitment agency or MI5 spies?
If Tribal GWT Consulting was really "just acting as a postman" in passing CVs unread straight to MI5, I wonder what it was being paid (ComputerWeekly, 27 April)? Perhaps it was using the loose brick at the rear of the Centre Point building near Cambridge Circus as the drop.
Chips (contract manager),